En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion to push growth model change

Global Times - - Front Page - By Yang Sheng

China’s in­creas­ingly strict en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mea­sures are forc­ing a change in its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment model, even though some are wor­ried about a pos­si­ble neg­a­tive im­pact to the econ­omy.

Since the 18th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in 2012, the gov­ern­ment has been on a cam­paign of strict law- en­force­ment against pol­lu­tion. And since 2016, there have been four rounds of en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tions na­tion­wide to mon­i­tor pro­duc­tion and deal with pol­lu­tion prob­lems.

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion ( MEP) sent eight in­spec­tion teams to the prov­inces and re­gions of Jilin, Zhejiang, Shan­dong, Hainan, Sichuan, Qing­hai, Ti­bet and Xin­jiang as part of the fourth round of en­vi­ron­men­tal in­spec­tions from Au­gust 15- 24.

The in­spec­tions fo­cused on prom­i­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues that are be­ing closely watched by the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties, Jiang Jufeng, head of the Ti­bet in­spec­tion team, told the Xin­hua News Agency.

Nor­gyel, di­rec­tor of the Ti­betan En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment, told Xin­hua such in­spec­tions will help im­prove en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in Ti­bet in a more sci­en­tific and stan­dard­ized way and help strengthen the re­gion’s func­tion as a strong­hold for the coun­try’s eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity.

In this lat­est in­spec­tion, mem­bers of the pub­lic tipped off 13,826 cases to the in­spec­tors and 2,115 en­ter­prises were fined a to­tal of 94.49 mil­lion yuan ($ 14.33 mil­lion). The po­lice also de­tained 146 peo­ple on sus­pi­cion of caus­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion.

Chi­nese President Xi Jin­ping has stressed on­go­ing ef­forts in build­ing an eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion by ad­her­ing to green de­vel­op­ment con­cepts, Xin­hua re­ported on Mon­day.

Xi made the re­marks in an in­struc­tion on the achieve­ments of a for­est farm in north­ern He­bei Prov­ince.

He said that ef­forts to pur­sue green de­vel­op­ment and eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion should be made gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion to cre­ate har­mony be­tween peo­ple and na­ture, and leave a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

High stan­dards

The strict in­spec­tion work by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has aroused ques­tions as to whether the high stan­dards needed for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion can be put into prac­tice.

Ex­perts and of­fi­cials with the MEP blame lo­cal gov­ern­ments, as lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials do not al­ways act in the best in­ter­ests of their dis­tricts, and there is dis­sent on­line from those who con­tend that en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion ef­forts dam­age eco­nomic growth.

“In the past, lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ top pri­or­ity was GDP growth, which is why they looked away from the great lev­els of pol­lu­tion when fac­to­ries could bring fast eco­nomic growth,” Ma Jun, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Pub­lic and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, told the Global Times.

Start­ing in Fe­bru­ary, the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and the State Coun­cil jointly an­nounced that the eval­u­a­tion of of­fi­cials will fo­cus more on en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion re­sults rather than mere GDP data, and have shifted China’s de­vel­op­ment model to pay more at­ten­tion to the en­vi­ron­ment.

How­ever, in­stead of tack­ling emis­sions, some lo­cal of­fi­cials just close down fac­to­ries for good.

Bie Tao, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the De­part­ment of Poli­cies and Laws of the MEP, said that “the MEP op­poses some lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ be­hav­ior of non­fea­sance and in­dul­gence on pol­lu­tion, but also op­poses the reck­less law- en­force­ment to sim­ply shut down pol­lut­ing com­pa­nies,” Xin­hua re­ported.

The gov­ern­ment should show zero tol­er­ance to­ward pol­lut­ing fac­to­ries and com­pa­nies, but this does not mean a blan­ket policy of ruth­less shut downs, be­cause this will harm the com­pa­nies and the econ­omy, Ma said. In­stead, the gov­ern­ment should help pol­luters to im­prove their sys­tems, he said.

“En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion can also bring new op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic growth,” Ma noted.

China’s green econ­omy, in­volv­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion, has reached 1.6 tril­lion yuan, which is ex­pected to dou­ble by 2020, ac­cord­ing to the Eco­nomic In­for­ma­tion Daily.

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